Until recently, Hell’s Kitchen was the site of primarily tenements and warehouses. Even though those structures have since been converted into luxury residences and thriving businesses, the area still isn’t known for its landmarks. But the area does have its share of buildings designated as landmarks by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Here are the most notable.
McGraw-Hill Building (1931)
330 W. 42nd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)
Designed by architect Raymond Hood for publishing company McGraw-Hill, this 33-story building was “hailed as New York’s first monument to the International Style,” according to the LPC, which also noted that critics viewed it as “an ugly ‘green elephant.’” The building’s green-blue terracotta facing and green metal window frames distinguished it as much as its stepped silhouette and its height: Towering above the buildings that at the time made up the neighborhood, it remained the tallest building in Hell’s Kitchen until the construction of One Worldwide Plaza in 1989. Although McGraw-Hill moved to Midtown in 1971, the structure remains in use as an office building.
The McGraw-Hill Building. Image: Paul Houle/Wikimedia
Actors Studio (c. 1858)
432 W. 44th St (between 9th and 10th Avenues)
Performers, directors, and writers as varied as Edward Albee, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford, and Robin Williams have belonged to the Actors Studio since it was founded by director Elia Kazan in 1947. That’s not the sole reason its Manhattan headquarters was designated a landmark, however. Originally the Seventh Associate Presbyterian Church, it’s an example of Greek Revival style, complete with a low, unadorned pediment framed in white. The Actors Studio didn’t move into the building until 1955, under the leadership of Lee Strasberg. The building remains the headquarters of the organization, which is currently run by actors Ellen Burstyn, Harvey Keitel, and Al Pacino.
The Actors Studio. Image: Wikimedia]
Film Center Building (1928-29)
630 Ninth Ave. (between 44th and 45th Streets)
As you approach this boxy 13-story building, you might wonder if there’s some sort of mistake; this couldn’t possibly be a city landmark. But once you walk into the lobby, designed by Eli Jacques Kahn, you’ll understand why it received landmark status in 1982. Stepped plaster bands in gold that run across the ceiling and down the walls; bold black and silver horizontal stripes on the walls below them; a vibrantly colored geometric mosaic: The LPC deemed the space “one of New York’s finest surviving Art Deco style interiors.”
The lobby of the Film Center Building. Image: Jim Henderson/Wikimedia
Al Hirschfield Theatre (1923-24)
302-314 W. 45th St. (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues)
Originally the Martin Beck Theater, the Broadway landmark was renamed in 2003 to honor the acclaimed caricaturist, who was most famous for his drawings of stage performers. The original namesake was a producer who commissioned G. Albert Lansburgh to create the first (and only) Broadway theater west of Eighth Avenue. Known primarily for designing movie houses, Lansburgh opted for a Moorish-inspired façade and a truly opulent interior.
The auditorium ceiling of the Al Hirschfield Theatre. Image: Andreas Praefcke/Wikimedia
Fire Engine Company No. 54 (1888)
304 W. 47th St. (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues)
Though it’s been the home of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre since 1977, this former firehouse is still known by its original name. It was one of more than 40 buildings that architectural firm Napoleon LeBrun & Son designed for the New York City Fire Department, and the LPC described it as an “excellent example… reflecting the firm’s attention to materials, stylish details, plan, and setting.” Proof that utilitarian buildings can also be attractive, the four-story building features cast-iron columns topped with capitals adorned with sunflowers, rounded windows on the top floor, dogtooth-pattern brick panels above the windows of the second, third, and fourth stories; and terracotta ornamentation.
Midtown Community Court (1894-96)
314 W. 54th St. (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues)
Formerly the 11th Judicial District Courthouse and designed by John H. Duncan, this Renaissance Revival building was known as “the West Side Court.” In addition to housing the 11th District Municipal Court, it was also home to the Seventh District Magistrates’ Court. Its classical features include a granite palazzo-inspired base below two brick stories and a “frontispiece” of windows framed by terracotta pilasters and columns. A frieze with a sword-of-justice motif wraps around the top of the third floor. Today it’s occupied by the Midtown Community Court, part of the city’s Criminal Court system that focuses on rehabilitation instead of punishment for quality-of-life offenses such as prostitution and vandalism.
Hearst Magazine Building (1926-27)
959 Eighth Avenue/300 W. 57th St.
The gleaming triangular-frame glass structure of what is now Hearst Tower sits atop the original six-story base of the Hearst Magazine Building. Spanning the entire west side of Eighth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets, it was designed by architect and theater designer Joseph Urban in association with George B. Post & Sons. The base, which features a cast-limestone façade, was always meant to support additional floors, but the Depression forced the publishing company to put the plan on hold. It wasn’t until 2006—18 years after the base achieved landmark status—that the other 42 stories were added. The fluted columns topped with urns, the sculptured figures standing atop pedestals, and the third-story balconies are just a few of the dramatic features that made—and continue to make—the building’s base a standout.
The former Hearst Magazine Building, now the base of Hearst Tower. Image: Leonard J. DeFrancisci/Wikimedia]